Contracting Your Salesforce

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The Way Forward Or Just A Pipe Dream?

It’s paradoxical that the IT industry, responsible for massive global change, should be so restrained and unimaginative in adopting new and creative employment patterns.

Despite the ease with which the dedicated seeker can network and directly sell themselves to employers, there continues to be a proliferation of recruitment consultants. Unsurprisingly, as trends indicate that, in spite of regular and fierce culling, opportunities are increasing again. IT will continue to be a growth area as newer technologies surface. But does that mean we should stay stuck in past employment patterns?

Indeed with the exceptional number of both recruitment consultants coupled with available professionals for hire, new perspective selling (NPS) should be a key element to industry strategy. But who actually controls the process? The recruitment consultant or the employer? And who can drive the industry forward?

Broadly speaking, recruitment consultants can be sorted into intuitives and commodotisers. The commodotiser is recognisable mainly when the market dips. As pipelines dry, the commodotiser feels the pressure and succumbs to negative messages. Their strength traditionally lies in checklists – matching skills-sets against an employer’s perfect model. And there is nothing wrong with that. It works well – when good times are constant.

The intuitives on the other hand know their clients, both the employer who pays them, and their product – the sales professional. They are gifted with the ability to think laterally and find ways of kick-starting the industry into life again. They know how to maximise this amazing talent bank to an industry which is never going to grind to a halt. They know how to show their clients when to use transferable skills and other experience in new and creative ways, to further revenue. Regardless of decimated sales forces, revenue targets very rarely go down.

New perspective selling (NPS) takes brave thinking. The bravest form of NPS is with outsourcing the salesforce.

The precedent already exists in the States. A bank lacked the personnel needed to launch an aggressive campaign. Current sales staff had their hands full, servicing existing accounts with little spare time or focus vital to success. Cold calling also required an expertise lacking in-house. A strategic sales team of driven professionals were outsourced to target and build personal relationships with their key growth market. Federal banking regulations had to be strictly followed. The sales team had to be consistent with the bank’s professional corporate image and philosophy. The outsourced sales professionals had to identify the prospects, introduce them to the products, and then turn them over to internal bank personnel to complete the deals, deploy, administer and manage onwards.

This same sales outsourcing company has achieved successes in telecommunications, energy, healthcare, and technology markets. In Britain, this model has been used within the pharmaceutical industry for some time. But do we have this same entrepreneurial spirit?

The will to change is not yet matched with the enthusiasm – or the know-how. Ploughing the furrow is always for some other. And in the rush to commodity sell that next CV, why upset the HR? Well it’s not upsetting the HR. It’s not even upsetting the Sales Director. If their immediate need to see upward movement in the pipeline is met without employment issues, protracted contractual negotiations and so forth, they will be very happy indeed.

Historically, HR has employed headhunters to pick off the top players from an equivalent or competitive environment. However, success is not achieved as simply as that. Top performers in one pond frequently fail to make the grade as highly in a fresh one. And it has become more and more expensive to clear the decks again.

But what type of sales professional would suit? No one ever achieved true wealth working for another. Control of one’s sales destiny lies with management decisions than can keep an entrepreneurial mind in short trousers.

Unless they have deliberately taken a sabbatical, most sales professionals would rather have an opportunity for generating healthy income as well as maximising existing experience and relationships, with continuity being the keyword. This model could also allow both the company and the professional to consider a more permanent arrangement.

There are a number of ways in which this can be managed in terms of sales cycle, the relationships and administering compensation plans. For example, Quantifiable Revenue Equivalents (QREs) will probably be one measurement criterion for the individual outsourced sales professional. Agencies owning and controlling the sales force is another.

Selling some forms of software is undeniably complex and complicated. However, over the years, even the most complex of products and services has been commodotised and simplified - in the selling process rather than the fiscal value! Quantifying and phasing each step of the sale will be vital to successful implementation.

With the industry’s pace of change and renewed pressure for faster return on investment – from both client and VC – the demand for new perspective selling will develop and increase.

Thoreau recommended never hiring a person who works for money but rather one who works for love of it. This will be the perfect time to nurture those with a true love of both selling and their industry.

©Euphrosene Labon 2005 - Euphrosene Labon has over 25 years’ experience in IT sales and business development. She is the author of several books including A Little Book of Big Sales Tips. For more information please visit or email


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